2013 Ag Retail Outlook: Rethinking Soil Sampling

Anyone not directly involved in U.S. production agriculture could easily believe annual crop yield increases could go on year after year. The introduction of hybrid seed corn and commercial fertilizer were certainly the early factors in yield increases. But now, genetic improvements and the use of precision farming technologies continue to improve our ability to increase yields while at the same time our soil test nutrient values continue to decline.  

We are mining our soils, taking off more nutrients each year than we are replacing. With the increase in crop residue removal, the trend in lower soil test levels could accelerate even more if we don’t rethink our nutrient application rates.

During the winter of 2012, I reviewed the results of more than 100,000 grid soil sample results taken by Midwest Independent Soil Sampling (MISS) in Iowa in the fall of 2011. I found 41% tested at 20 ppm or less in phosphorous. Potassium levels were even worse, with more than 50% testing at 170 ppm or less in plant-available potassium.  

The results of the fall 2011 Iowa samples parallels the findings in other Midwestern states by the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) in a study of more than 4.4 million soil sample analyses across North America in 2010. This extensive study is available from the IPNI, Publication No. 30-3110, and compares soil survey results from 2010, 2005 and 2001.  Using the Iowa results from the IPNI the study found 46% of the Iowa soil test phosphorous values were at the critical level of 20 ppm or less, and 55% of the potassium soil analysis results were at the critical level of 170 ppm or less. The results are very similar to the MISS findings.

The IPNI study reveals that it is the better, more aggressive agronomy managers and farmers who regularly sample their fields and the results may not be representative of those who do not sample. Further, both data sets include soil test results taken from fields under livestock nutrient management plans, and in all probability resulted in higher soil test values.

I believe those who do not regularly sample are much more likely to have lower fertility levels overall, as they are not involved in site-specific application based on soil test values and actual site-specific crop removal levels and aren’t applying livestock nutrients. Nutrient applications based on average field yields leads to less than average yields over the long run, and an even worse decline in soil test values.

Another indication we are mining many of our soils in the Midwest are the early stages of potassium deficiencies showing up in specific areas of fields.  The blame last year was placed on the early-season dry weather of 2012 which certainly didn’t help, especially with nutrients such as potassium. But when we see four- to six-inch corn in Iowa showing signs of K deficiency, we need to examine our sampling intensity, soil test values and fertility recommendations. Our critical levels of K in this case are simply too low.

Today’s producer is adopting precision tools at an unbelievable rate, but many are centered on equipment that is offering valuable operational improvements. Seed placement, seed spacing, population, variable rate planting and genetics improvement are all factors leading to an increase in yield. When these advancements level off (and they will), yields will level off and will actually decline if we don’t make better nutrient application decisions.   

At the same time we are seeing and will continue to see extreme pressure by regulatory agencies to improve water quality. Agronomy service providers will be called upon to become a more important part of this process while at the same time helping producers to maintain and increase crop production. Applying the 4Rs of fertility management is an extremely useful tool but it comes with the responsibility to build and maintain our soil fertility at levels that maximize and protect our most valuable resource, our soils. We have the science and the tools to accomplish all of the challenges facing agriculture, all of which start with the soil.

Leave a Reply

One comment on “2013 Ag Retail Outlook: Rethinking Soil Sampling

  1. As an agronomist / pedologist, specializating in soil/use interpretation I am most interested in expanding my knowledge about your organization!

    Are you limited with the crop areas that you would like to provide services to?

    I look forward to your email or call.

    Although I am currently a resident in central Florida, I am really a ‘SnowBird’, who has experience with soil use countrywide.

    Respectfully,
    Luke Pritchett
    863-837-8821

    lukespla [email protected]

Crop Inputs Stories

Crop InputsDuPont Pioneer: Corn Belt P and K Levels Lagging
August 24, 2016
A new DuPont Pioneer study conducted across 12 Corn Belt states demonstrates that growers may be leaving profit potential in Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsCould a Monsanto-Bayer Union Be 2 Weeks from Fruition?
August 24, 2016
Via STLToday.com (The St. Louis Post-Dispatch): Merger talks between Monsanto Co. and Bayer AG are advancing after a series of Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsChemChina, Syngenta Receive Clearance From CFIUS
August 22, 2016
China National Chemical Corp. (ChemChina) and Syngenta have announced that the companies have received clearance on their proposed transaction from the Read More
Crop InputsEU Glyphosate Controversy Heating Up Yet Again
August 17, 2016
The battle over glyphosate rages on in Europe, creating a lot of question marks over whether the herbicide will continue Read More
Trending Articles
Key Cooperative Marcus Construction Steel Building
Retail FacilitiesMarcus Construction Builds High-Speed Agronomy Center For Key Cooperative
July 7, 2016
Key Cooperative in Grinnell, IA, wanted a state-of-the-art Agronomy Center to better serve its customers. Marcus Construction delivered exactly that. Read More
Heritage Cooperative
Retail FacilitiesKahler Automation Designs State-Of-The-Art Facility For Heritage Cooperative
July 4, 2016
Heritage Cooperative in Marysville, OH, needed an efficient liquid, dry and grain facility to serve the many needs of their Read More
The Andersons Waterloo
ManagementFirst Indiana Facility Certified Under 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program
June 27, 2016
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced that The Andersons, Inc.’s Waterloo, IN, facility has been added to its Read More
Food IT
Industry NewsCalifornia Event Will Mix Ag And Tech Professionals To Explore IT Solutions
June 20, 2016
Silicon Valley is hot on agriculture, and an upcoming event in California will bring together the food and tech industries Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Eric SfiligojWhat’s Next For Monsanto?
May 31, 2016
For the folks at Monsanto’s headquarters in St. Louis, MO, it has been an eventful few weeks. Back on May Read More
Soybean Plant closeup
Industry NewsMonsanto Rejects Bayer Bid; Open To More Talks
May 25, 2016
Monsanto Co, the world’s largest seed company, turned down Bayer AG’s $62 billion acquisition bid as “incomplete and financially inadequate” Read More
Latest News
Crop InputsDuPont Pioneer: Corn Belt P and K Levels Lagging
August 24, 2016
A new DuPont Pioneer study conducted across 12 Corn Belt states demonstrates that growers may be leaving profit potential in Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsCould a Monsanto-Bayer Union Be 2 Weeks from Fruition?
August 24, 2016
Via STLToday.com (The St. Louis Post-Dispatch): Merger talks between Monsanto Co. and Bayer AG are advancing after a series of Read More
EquipmentCase IH Debuts Nutri-Tiller 955 Strip-Till Applicator
August 24, 2016
With strip-till continuing to expand across new acres, Case IH designed the new Nutri-Tiller 955 strip-till applicator to help producers Read More
EquipmentCase Launches Aim Command FLEX, 25th Anniversary Patrio…
August 24, 2016
Case IH announces new AIM Command FLEX advanced spray technology for greater application accuracy, as well as special 25th Anniversary Read More
ASMARK 2016 Retailers Live! Tour - CPS
CropLife 100CPS Acquires Texas Retail Operation
August 23, 2016
Crop Production Services (CPS) has acquired the assets of Larry’s Chemical and Spray, Inc., for an undisclosed amount in an Read More
PrecisionAg Video Conference
Precision AgVideo: PrecisionAg Vision Conference
August 22, 2016
A Strategic Conference Focused on the Future of Farm Digitization and Precision Agriculture Visit precisionagvision.com and register today! Read More
Young Corn Plants
Industry NewsOABA Welcomes Nicole Wallace As Communication & Adm…
August 22, 2016
The Ohio AgriBusiness Association has hired Nicole Wallace as its communication and administrative coordinator. Wallace will help provide comprehensive communication Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsChemChina, Syngenta Receive Clearance From CFIUS
August 22, 2016
China National Chemical Corp. (ChemChina) and Syngenta have announced that the companies have received clearance on their proposed transaction from the Read More
ManagementAg Industry Shows and Rumors
August 18, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the upcoming trade show schedule, crop protection merger updates, and content for Read More
MAGIE 2015
EquipmentMAGIE Takes The Pulse Of The Ag Retail Industry
August 18, 2016
Every year, one of the major highlights of my career as an ag journalist is attending the Midwest AG Industries Read More
MAGIE 2015 Overview
EquipmentPride In Professionalism On Display At MAGIE
August 18, 2016
The Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association (IFCA) is proud to partner with CropLife IRON and continue the tradition of bringing Read More
SprayersJenner Ag To Debut 25th Anniversary Edition Case IH Pat…
August 18, 2016
Visitors at the 2016 Midwest Ag Industries Exhibition (MAGIE) in Bloomington, IL, will have a unique photo opportunity, as Jenner Read More
Crop InputsEU Glyphosate Controversy Heating Up Yet Again
August 17, 2016
The battle over glyphosate rages on in Europe, creating a lot of question marks over whether the herbicide will continue Read More
Industry NewsNew Partnership Provides Improved Representation At Ohi…
August 16, 2016
The Ohio AgriBusiness Association (OABA) has retained Belinda Jones of Capitol Consulting Group, Inc. (CCG) for government relations work in Read More
Tissue testing
FertilizerMosaic: 6 Tips For Better Crop Nutrition In Corn
August 16, 2016
Late in the crop season is a good time to assess visual nutrient deficiencies and ensure early- and mid-season deficiencies Read More
WebinarsWebinar Schedule
August 14, 2016
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
Dow DuPont
Crop InputsDowDuPont Update: EU Takes Closer Look at Merger
August 12, 2016
Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. face months of haggling with European Union antitrust regulators who opened an in-depth probe Read More
ManagementNews from InfoAg 2016 and Weed Wands
August 11, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj review what happened at last week’s big Precision Ag event and a possible solution Read More